Defining Healthy-Unhealthy for Structure-Stages
(If you want the Executive Summary of this blogpost, scroll through and read just the text in purple, sometimes bold and sometimes not.)
In exploring “stages” of development in human consciousness, it is often convenient to refer to healthy and unhealthy “versions” of a given stage. In fact, it is important to make some distinction around this, because whatever the purpose for making the distinction is, that purpose seems to apply at second and third tier stages, as well as first tier stages. Put another way, it seems that there are typical stage-specific “shadows” at all stages, even those in second and third tier. And it seems that both “translation” and “transformation” can be helped by “healthy” and hindered by “unhealthy” at every stage. So it’s worth exploring this distinction further, IMO.
However, given the principle that EVERYthing we say is coming from some “altitude” or “stage”, then the concepts of healthy and unhealthy are going to be different depending on who’s talking!
So right now, this blogpost’s “talking” is probably coming from a consciousness around Turquoise or Coral in the cognitive and/or spiritual lines, and possibly even the moral and social lines of development. That’s a best guess for “disclosure” purposes so you can orient your interpreting as you wish. Why do I say “lines” rather than “me?”
Because that’s another facet of any such discussion. It’s more accurate to speak of the stage of a line of development in a given person, because the person as a whole is a mosaic (or swirl of waves, is a common metaphor) of the “colors” between and within the many “lines” of development which (as we sometimes experience all too vividly) can develop partially independently of one another.
OK, with all that out of the way, let me forge ahead into this exploration. When you’re done reading, I would like to hear what occurred to you as you were reading. How could this be more useful to you? What can you contribute to the exploration?
Given that “structure-stages” (as distinguished from the semi-independent ‘stage-stages’) are, in Spiral Dynamics, adaptations of human consciousness to various life-conditions experienced by the individual and/or group, that provides perhaps one basic touchstone for what might be regarded as “healthiness” of a structure-stage: How successful an adaptation is it?
But of course that raises other questions: How are we going to measure such “success?” I offer these possible criteria:
The individual (or society or culture) experiences well-being, which encompasses physical, mental, emotional and all other aspects of being alive. We could say, this means the aliveness is “thriving” or ‘flourishing” in the prevailing (perceived) life-conditions. Thus, “healthy” is “what is appropriate for maximizing “aliveness” in the life conditions experienced by that consciousness.” (Again, we’re dangerously close to generalizing to a whole person here, when in fact we’re really meaning particular lines of their development, but the languaging of that with precision gets challenging.)
One could ponder about “optimizing” versus “maximizing” but let’s let that go for now. Let’s say that with Life as the ultimate value, life of the individual, the group, the species, and everything alive, all combined together, “maximizing Life within the given (perceived) life conditions” is a good first approximation of this criterion for health.
Notice this corresponds to “translation,” and has to do with fully occupying or embodying or inhabiting the structure-stage. Fully maturing into its potentials, we might say. And given that every stage has entry-middle-and exit phases, with tails extending both backward and forward from that, “fully” becomes a challenging concept to keep pinned down, too.
So if that corresponds to “translation,” and can be viewed as a horizontal component of the concept of “healthy” as applied to structure-stages in the developmental trajectory, then we can deduce there must be a vertical component to “healthy” also. Let’s explore what that might be.
In a nutshell, that might be “There are no blocks to further development, and thus there is full access to/influence from the natural, inherent urge/Eros to develop.” In other words, the “transformation” has full and free rein.
In every structure-stage, there are possible stage-specific patterns in consciousness which are not maximally conducive to “adaptation to life conditions.” We’ve come to call those “shadows” of that stage. Those shadows, if not brought into full light of consciousness and dissolved/transmuted into healthful patterns for that stage, do two things: They block the flow of developmental maturation, and they “contaminate” or damage the horizontal healthiness of whatever later stages do come into some measure of developmental embodiment.
For example, if a person’s ways of “self-expression” continue to necessitate their inflicting violence on others, they can’t grow into the fullness of “healthy Red” which is the capacity for forceful self-assertion which uses methods other than violence. And their ability to conform to/obey group prohibitions of or limitations on violence will be severely limited, so they can’t be “good Blue” to that extent, or healthy Blue, we might say.
So, it seems to me, that “on the face of it,” given the very concept of what a structure-stage is and how it develops and what its purpose in human life is, we have two criteria for “health” directly implied:
Horizontal: Healthiness varies with the extent of fostering adaptation to (perceived) “life conditions” (in quotes because it is a specialized concept within Spiral Dynamics.)
Vertical: Healthiness varies with the extent of allowing the free flow of the natural process of the development of consciousness.
As I contemplate those, I sense some “meta” perspectives trying to emerge in my awareness. Perhaps those criteria explored above correspond to “first order learning” -- of content, of information, of “how to’s" -- and if so, what might correspond to “second-order” and “third order” learning? Second-order learning might be nutshelled as “Learning about how best to learn content” or as “Learning by reflecting on content.” Third-order Learning might be nutshelled as “Learning about ways of learning about learning” or “Learning how to design in a variety of ways of learning, even more variety than learning directly or learning by reflecting.” (If you explore the link above I think you’ll end up like me, sensing that there appears to be no agreement whatsoever among thinkers who use these terms, as to what they refer to!! So I made up my own for my own purposes.)
[The jump from criteria for healthiness to orders of learning is still opaque to me, but let’s just go down this rabbit hole and see what we find.]
It strikes me as reasonable to consider some aspect or pattern of consciousness (and its correlatives in the other 3 quadrants of that structure-stage) as “healthy” if it not only doesn’t block the flow of development, but can appear as part of the healthy patterns in LATER stages.
In other words, in the example, an ability in Red for self-expression without inflicting violence on others, can appear as part of healthy Green relating. Indeed, as each stage builds on the previous ones, the “carry-forward” is crucial. Both healthy and “shadow” or unhealthy patterns can be carried forward, and I might even be willing to say that the further back a shadow is from, the more unhealthy it is in a later stage, and the further back a healthy pattern is from, the more foundational it is at a later stage.
So this might add a criterion of “healthy” wrt a pattern at a given stage: Able to be “carried forward” and appear in a later stage as part of the healthy version of that stage, iow, to meet the first two criteria at that later stage: conducive to thriving and wellbeing of Life, and maximally conducive to further development, rather than impeding it.
So now we have three possible candidates for applying the labels of “healthy” or “unhealthy” to any particular pattern of consciousness at a given structure-stage (of a given line:)
Horizontal: Extent of fostering adaptation to (perceived) “life conditions” (in quotes because it is a specialized concept within Spiral Dynamics)
Vertical: Extent of allowing the free flow of natural developmental process
Meta to that Horizontal and Vertical:
Able to be “carried forward” and appear in a later stage as part of the healthy version of that stage, iow, to meet the first two criteria at that later stage: conducive to thriving and wellbeing of Life, and maximally conducive to further development, rather than impeding it.
That seems to me to take care of something corresponding to “Second-Order Learning.” What about “Third Order Learning?” (Again, speaking as I must from my own altitude of development, whatever that might be in whatever lines are contributing to this writing.)
I/we might want to start looking even more deeply than the concepts of “life conditions” and “adaptation,” and ask “What fundamental Patterns of Living Systems* are related to this question of healthiness of patterns of consciousness at various developmental structure-stages, and how could we infer something corresponding to, or useful as, “healthy” or “unhealthy” from those? I/we might also start looking at “survive,” “reproduce,” “learn,” “adapt.” (But not in this already-long exploration, haha.)
I/we might look at definitions of life, definitions of “thriving” as context-dependent, and I/we might look at how wide a context needs to be present in consciousness for something to be called “healthy.”
I might for now, nominate these three candidates for Third-order criteria of “healthiness.”
One: A pattern of consciousness is healthy to the extent to which it is conducive to, or doesn’t impede, the emergence of new possibilities for WAYS of growing, new patterns of growing, new methods of growing. Notice this is “meta” to the “transformation” criterion of the First Order described above. Here I don’t mean just conducive to growth, but conducive to the emergence of new WAYS of growing!!! Wheeeeee!!
Two: (This might not be Third Order, but bear with me.) A pattern of consciousness is healthy to the extent that it allows the person to, fosters or doesn’t impede them from, perceiving any object of perception which is potentially available in the experiential/ontological world-space of that structure-stage. In plain words, this does mean fully inhabiting one’s stage.
In plainer words, it means that if one or two people in a structure-stage “perceive” a phenomenon which becomes available to perception ONLY from within that worldspace, then a pattern of consciousness which blocks access to that perception, is can be regarded as unhealthy for that structure-stage. All the “voices crying in the wilderness” will be happy to hear about this criterion!!!!
Another way of describing this is that a pattern of consciousness can be regarded as unhealthy to the extent it is based on denial (not simple ignorance) of anything perceptible in that worldspace and thus potentially part of their awareness, that would be potentially useful for living and growing within that worldspace. (This corresponds very closely with Ayn Rand’s criterion for “evil,” of deliberate refusal to raise one’s level of awareness in the face of some sense that such raising is being called for by something not in full awareness.)
Another way of describing this, is that healthiness excludes denial and repression, which is blocking one's own awareness of something potentially in one's perception.
Three: There seem to be certain qualities or patterns of consciousness which are trans-stage, which are conducive to both of the First-Order criteria. (And thus might be Second-order, not Third.) These include kindness and curiosity, and a third which I can’t recall right now. There are other folks who know a lot more about these matters than I do, and I hope they will comment extensively below. I myself find the notion of such “trans-stage” patterns or qualities, very fascinating and potentially extraordinarily useful for anyone concerned with either translation or transformation.
Curiosity might correspond with the drive to grow and develop, so it might match the second of the First-Order criteria above. Kindness might match, for most stages, the first of those two First-Order criteria, being conducive to thriving -- since kindness given often begets kindness to receive, and both are conducive to well-being!
* Here are some peeks down THAT rabbit hole:
by Rev. Alia Aurami, Ph.D., Head Minister, Amplifying Divine Light in All Church
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